The world uploads some 1.8 billion photos each day, and off the back of this trend for ‘capturing the moment’, we are seeing ourselves more and more from an outside perspective. All these photos are furthering what some would call the ‘evolution of the self,’ and what one Professor in particular likens to psychiatry’s ‘mirror stage’ see in young children (ie. the recognition of oneself as an entity, and the formation of ‘I’) These many and varied photos can, by all accounts, trigger some unexpectedly strong emotional responses, not least of which are the epiphanies and light bulb moments we often see credited for creating major turning points in our lives. Little do we often realise when we’re having these photos taken, that an impromptu captured moment might go on to become an axis point in our increasingly pliable identies. Whether it’s a holiday snap or a staged ‘before’ photograph, the potential is always there for a jumping off point, either towards - or against – a now past precedent. From this regard, photography could be said to have a positive impact on our health, fitness and wellbeing, more so than any other medium. We asked Chlo Hodgkinson Sarah Miller Rachel Evans and Hollie Grant for their views on the motivational impact of photography.
'This photo was day one of my #ProjectBecomeGoodAtShit challenge. It was my first ever session of doing a handstand. I was just chuffed I got upside down but it inspired me so much, because this was also day 1 of refocusing my training efforts away from calorie burning and focusing on skills. This was the day my approach to fitness changed forever. No longer was I heading to the gym to max out calorie burn. I was going in to develop strength and to develop calisthenic skills. Since this photo, my whole life has changed, I’ve developed strength I didn't know was possible. My body shape has changed into my dream body without me even focusing on it, and my old diet following habits completely vanished when I had to start using food to fuel my training, rather than depriving my body.
I can now hold my handstand, have started an adults gymnastics class and have found my sense of adventure again. Next month my next challenge is dance. I’m finally celebrating what my body can do rather than destroying it in a bid to try change it.'
This snapshot of @ellemacphersonofficial has been a big driver in my life. To me, she is the epitome of living the dream. Yes she’s blessed with good genetics, but she’s not just a pretty face. She knows how to channel her assets to her advantage, and has created an authentic lifestyle of health, wellbeing and happiness.
When I was at my most lost after my divorce at the age of 40, with two little girls a financial disaster to get through, a health crisis and my whole life to rebuild, the simplicity of this shot really helped me to focus and become very intentional in how I lived. I didn’t have any time, energy or money to waste so if I wanted to see progress in my life I had to be fairly ruthless with myself and my lifestyle.
I wanted to show up in the way that Elle McPherson does. Crazy I know, to pick a supermodel to aspire to, but it’s more her lifestyle and self discipline that I was interested in. I knew that I wasn’t suddenly going to grow my legs another 6 inches, but I could try to be the best version of myself and by doing that I was progressing in mind, body and spirit.
It led me on a huge and ongoing growth journey to achieve the best version of myself, and effectively style my best life, by deciding how I wanted to show up, my vision for the future and my values that I wanted to live by.
Once I had all of this in place, the overwhelm and comparison dropped away as I became very intentional and conscious in how I lived my life, hence my IG handle @theconsciouslifestylist.
Once you know the direction that you wish to steer your ship in, it’s just a matter of staying on course even if this means readjusting the route around storms every now and again. Find your focus, set your goals and believe in yourself. A simple image as a visual reminder can have a dramatic impact when paired with small steps towards your goals.
I love looking on instagram for ideas for my morning smoothie bowl, and sharing my own motivational posts. If you're in that indecisive mood of 'shall I just grab a piece of toast or make myself something really fresh and packed with nutrients?', then looking at a really vibrant colourful photo of delicious food can sway it for you.
That said, I think it's always worth noticing if the instagram accounts that you follow are leaving you feeling positive, energised and motivated or feeling negative, guilty and not good enough. If it's the latter than switch up which photos you're looking at.
Stunning headstands on a beautiful beach. Rippling six packs and oiled up biceps. For years the fitness industry thought that the way to motivate people to exercise more, or eat healthier, was to show them what was possible if they worked hard. For some this may have had the desired effect, but for others it simply left them feeling intimidated and left behind by the wellness industry. This never sat well with me and was the reason I set up the @athleticsnotaesthetics Instagram account.
We are now, finally, seeing a more honest and realistic side to our favourite wellness experts and this, alongside a more balanced approach to exercise and diet, is leaving us more motivated, and less apprehensive, of increasing our fitness. Accounts such as my own are showing the warts and all of fitness, as it should be. Everything I post has purpose and must consider the viewers emotions.
Take the success of accounts such as @thisgirlcan and @iweigh who are breaking down barriers and challenging the stereotypes surrounding ‘fit and healthy’ individuals. They give us an insight into a more diverse picture of health and have inspired women around the world to put their trainers on and get moving for the right reasons. So, when you next scroll through your social media feed, ask yourself if it is motivating or intimidating and delete accordingly. You are in charge of your social media feed and it is worth choosing the right accounts, and right role models, to help you get your motivation!